New paper on funding without copyright
Wed, 9 Jun 1999 16:12:13 -0700

Recently we had some discussion about whether copyright was necessary, and how people would be paid to produce works if the world turns out to be such that copyright enforcement is impossible.

A new paper by cryptographers John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier has been published which discusses some of the problems copyright may face, and a cryptographic protocol which would allow payment for at least some kinds of works.

The idea is basically that people would pay in advance for a work by a popular author. He might make a couple of chapters available for free, and then only release the others when he had, say, $50,000 in pledges. The authors describe how a publisher could act as a trusted intermediary to collect and hold the pledged fees, transfer them to the author when the book is released, or refund them if the author fails to make good on his promise (or if insufficient funds are raised).

The authors recognize the public-goods nature of the funding mechanism (people who don't pay get to read the book, too, so why pay?). They suggest that some of the same mechanisms to encourage cooperation might be used as for public-television fundraising drives.

The paper is at